Australia proposes biofouling and ballast water rules

Known for its leading role in ballast water management, Australia has now moved forward on the emerging issue of biofouling with a proposal to implement a new national plan to combat all types of marine pests. The plan covers invasive species in ballast water but also suggests consideration of organisms which are carried on ships’ hulls and so-called niche areas, such as sea chests, thruster tunnels, bilge spaces, seawater pipework etc.


The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Minister for Fisheries and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz, announced their intention to introduce the National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions last week. In their statement they refer specifically to the IMO Ballast Water Convention (International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments) and suggest that the national requirements are being established to ensure Australia meets its obligations as a signatory to this Convention. However, the proposal seems to go beyond ballast water since it deals with marine pests brought in on the hulls of ships.


Previous discussions on the form of the regulations on marine pests suggest that hull inspections may be undertaken to ascertain the presence of any invasive species. This would involve the possible cleaning of the ship’s hull if such a pest were identified. INTERTANKO will await further clarifications, however, before advising members on the actual requirements. For the time being, members are reminded of the ballast water requirements which currently exist in Australia (click here to view).


It is understood that Australia and New Zealand have over the past 24 months been assessing the risk from biofouling to the extent that they held an informal meeting during an IMO Committee session last year to gauge other states’ and the industry’s views on this matter becoming an item for consideration by the IMO. INTERTANKO’s Environmental Committee has also been considering this issue in light of this growing attention from Australia and New Zealand and has since commissioned a study on the possible impacts and environmental significance of biofouling as an invasive species threat.


Contact: Tim Wilkins